Industry leaders have said they will push to reinstate Scotland’s valuable seed potato trade with Europe at the opening of Solana Seeds’ new Scottish base on Wednesday (August 11).
NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon made the commitment as he officially opened the site at Wester Meathie, near Forfar.
The event took place on the eve of Potatoes in Practice, the UK’s biggest one-day potato event being held at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm, near Dundee on 12 August.
‘Purely Political And Totally Unacceptable’
Speaking at the opening, Connon branded the trade barriers as “purely political and totally unacceptable”.
“Scottish seed potato producers have done a tremendous job over many decades in establishing Scottish grown seed potatoes as a leading global brand. We have an industry to be proud of, whilst the degree of specialization and technical expertise within the sector is second to none,” he said.
The biggest issue we face is the lack of a current export market to Europe. With more than 75% of GB’s seed potato exports coming from Scotland, this situation has caused chaos for many growers. The unjust situation in place until the end of June, whereby EU Seed could come in whilst UK exports were halted should never have been allowed to happen.
“However, we need to find a sustainable solution to the issue and soon. We continue to lobby hard and are liaising with Scottish Government, the UK Government, Defra, the European potato trade and membership bodies, as well as the wider potato sector in Scotland.
“It is apparent that European growers want our seed potatoes whilst some UK growers have a need for imports from Europe. The entire situation is purely political and totally unacceptable.”
‘One-Way Trade Deals Will Not Be Welcome’
Connon said the trade situation was bad for the whole potato sector, with “no winners”.
“As we move forward, we must think about what’s best in the long-term for the Scottish potato sector,” he said.
Seed potato trade with the EU and GB must be reciprocal. This is an established principle that must remain in place for our members’ interests. Any one-way trade deals with individual members states would undermine this principle and will be extremely unwelcome.
“However, we must be mindful that almost 80,000t of Scottish seed potatoes are exported to non-EU countries, with the potential for increased trade with Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Canary Islands, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
“We want to see Scotland’s reputation for seed potatoes continue to grow worldwide and it is truly refreshing to see Solana Seeds investing in a Scottish base at Wester Meathie.”
Connon also highlighted the work NFU Scotland has undertaken to prepare the industry for the wind-down of levy body AHDB’s potatoes function.
“NFU Scotland has conducted a survey in conjunction with the Scottish Society for Crop Research (SSCR) to identify which of AHDB’s functions are most valued by the industry,” he said.
“The results, once available, will be used to help us lobby both government and industry about future support for the potato sector after AHDB has wound down. This will ensure that valued functions will continue to be carried out. It will also help start the process of identifying who should be responsible for them in future, and how they should be funded.”